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Scarecrows and Water Spiders: Simone Felice in Leeds

Still trying to get back down to earth after last night's amazing gig by Simone Felice at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds.

Dave Kennedy, lead singer with the Rainey Street Band had invited me along to see someone who has greatly inspired and influenced him. Whilst I hadn't heard Simone - pronounced 'Simon' - perform before, I was familiar with a number of his songs as they are regularly included by the Rainey Street Band in their set - 'Radio's On, 'Whiskey into my Whiskey' and 'One More American Song'.

The day had started quietly enough with a pint in Spoons in Brighouse, where I met Dave, ace harmonica player and multi-instrumentalist, Ian Crabtree, and his wife Chris, prior to catching the train over to Leeds. A few quality pints then ensued in the pubs of re-vitalised Holbeck - the Northern Monk Refectory, the Cross Keys and the Midnight Bell - before we headed back into town where we met Dom, and then Tom Firth, another man of many instruments from the Raineys, in the Scarbrough Taps, then had a spot of food at the Fox and Newt before getting taxis to the venue.

I had been to the Brudenell before, but it was that long ago that who I had gone to see and with whom I was with are lost in the mists of time. We grabbed a pint of Cascade, more than acceptable for a gig venue, and as we were early we managed to get seats on the front row.

Support act for the night was Anna Mitchell, a Cork singer songwriter, who after performing a number of her own songs then joined Simone on piano and harmonium for his set. The main man came out after a short interval, straight into his first song without as much as mumbled 'hello'. It was as if he was possessed by his songs and had to get them out into the open!

If I could use one word to describe Simone Felice it would be 'intense'. He has an incredible stage presence, his songs drawing you into their stories where strange characters and mystical happenings hold sway. Songs with titles such as 'Mercy', 'Don't Wake the Scarecrow', 'The Gallows', and 'Water Spider'. Songs shaped by the area where he lives, the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York. I can think of few people that I have ever seen who manage to keep you spellbound from the outset to the final note, and who make you feel that every word of every song is important. He did lighten up a little between numbers as the show progressed, though, the evening finishing with an excellent version of Pink Floyd's 'Wish You Were Here'. 

After the show, he was happy enough to sign albums and posters, and chat and pose for pictures, which gave Dave the chance to catch up with his hero again. If you fancy seeing Simone Felice, you will though have to wait until the next time he visits these shores, as last night's gig was the last of the current UK tour, barring a sell-out date in Belfast. But he does visit quite often, and I will definitely be going next time he's here. In the meantime though, he has a new double live album out which I have listened to this morning and it's great. 

All in all a great day out in Leeds - top music, top beer, and with some top people!

The new double live album - 'From the Violent Banks of the Kaaterskill' is out now


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